You guys ready for another personal experiment? I hope so. Even if don’t think you’re ready to take something on, I’m confident you’ll be able to handle this one, because it’s relatively simple, intuitive, and easy. It’s also something I’ve been discussing for a couple years now, so you’re most likely familiar and comfortable with the concept. But most importantly, today’s experiment is a gentle one that requires very little commitment. No jumping in freezing cold water, no drastic changes to your sleeping schedule. All I’m asking you to do is experiment with nighttime yellow light exposure.
Remember how I wrote about nighttime exposure to blue light affecting melatonin secretion and, subsequently, sleep quality and duration way back when? Yeah, that. In case you didn’t read it, I’ll give a quick explanation:
It’s time for another edition of “How to Conduct a Personal Experiment.” Last week, it was the cold water plunge. Today, we’re going to talk about running a biphasic sleep experiment. First, though, I’d like to know: how are the cold plunges going? Are they, well, cold? More importantly, did you have any difficulties setting up the experiment, identifying variables, and choosing what to measure and track? This whole personal experiment stuff is likely new to most of you, and while there’s no real “wrong” way to go about it, there will be some initial difficulties. Be sure to keep us posted in the comment section.
Okay, on to the new experiment.
Some consider it the ultimate Primal ground – a terrain unapologetically wild and forever untamable. It’s the last place a man or woman can live out every deep seated instinct and inclination with no interference from cultural authorities, no entanglement with others and their needs or opinion. I’m talking of course about dreams. (Those titles ruin all the mystery, don’t they?) Yes, I mean those baffling vignettes that take over when we think we’ve finally let go of the day and retreated to peacefully impervious hours. The brain, however, has other plans and sets out with its own agenda. Sometimes we wake unaware of the fictional muddle we’ve witnessed the night before. Other times we’re roused in a cold sweat, physically and emotionally gripped for hours by some bewildering, miserable ordeal. On a few lucky occasions, we’re treated to the good stuff, a stream of reverie worth luxuriating in if it weren’t for the cursed alarm clock. What’s the deal with all this drama anyway? The Primal Blueprint, of course, extols the importance of adequate quantity, high quality sleep. But what is sleep without dreams? According to research, not much.
A few months back, I linked to an article about a guy who experienced an unexpected benefit after Hurricane Irene knocked out his power for several days: he started sleeping much, much better. Instead of staying up late on the computer or with the TV blaring and going to bed at the usual 11:30 or midnight, he found himself yawning around 9 PM and getting to bed at 10. It was the best sleep of his life, and even better – the effects persisted even after the power returned. He had effectively entrained his circadian rhythm to the natural cycle of light and dark. This is basic stuff to you guys, but bear with me.
Just last week, a reader named Melissa emailed me with a similar story. She lost power for three and a half days after a Connecticut snowstorm took out power all across the state. Instead of panicking, she rolled with it. Instead of freaking out over the fact that there were sub-freezing temperatures, no heat, and no water (it froze), she made a fun snowball fight out of a snowstorm. She took it as an opportunity to get “unexpectedly extra-Primal.” I like it. I remember those New England winters, and I can’t imagine a better way to deal with them than to accept the challenge and make the best of it.
Ah, sleep. We need it, we love it, we crave it, we promise ourselves that we’ll get more of it, and yet quality sleep remains out of reach for so many of us these days. Some do it to themselves, staying up late to watch bad TV (or great TV, which is more understandable) and browse blogs (health blogs that, ironically enough, often write about the importance of sleep). There, the answer is simple: stop staying up. Resisting technology’s allure might be difficult, but at least it’s completely within your power to do so. Others have it tougher. Shift workers, for example, can’t just up and switch careers or get a new schedule after reading a blog. Since this is not the “original affluent society,” we have to work to pay for food, shelter, and other basic necessities, and we have to take what we can get.
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